Sunday, December 03, 2006

Thomas Edison Was Deaf, Wasn't He?

It is well known that Thomas Edison was deaf, but later in life, when he was famous (to say the least), a specialist told him that it might be possible to repair his hearing. However Edison declined the offer, saying that this way he could hear when he wanted to hear (and sometimes he heard things to his advantage that others obviously did not intend for him to hear). It was a sort of tranquility on demand.

This brings up several questions in matters of morality, of ethics. Was this honest, to pretend what was not (entirely) so? How many of us tell others everything we know? Should we, no matter how we acquire information? Why was Edison permitted to be left alone to work productively because of his "affliction", when otherwise his time (like ours) might have been taken up by someone wanting to sell him some thing or some idea?

To be sure, it was sneaky, but who isn't? As Jesus said, "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone". Now think of all that Edison accomplished — and of the thousands of things he tried that did not succeed, which he viewed as successful because he wouldn't try them again. Apparently, Edison did not regard himself as lonely, for he could communicate with others when he cared to. Another famous man who valued being left along was Alexander Graham Bell, who often spent weekends on his houseboat to get away from the telephone.

My title is a question, and the answer is: Define "deaf". Hearing, like sight, mobility, and health in general, is so involved with other considerations that we can only say, as in most matters, "it depends".

45 Comments:

At 11:28 PM, Blogger kinziephoto said...

I took three years of American sign Language because I once had a friend that I struggled to communicate with because he was Deaf. I felt responsible to learn his language - as he spent most of his time trying to function in a world that wasn't at all designed with him in mind. It was a learning experience.

I think we're all Deaf to certain things.

 
At 1:37 AM, Blogger 2Dubya (W.W) said...

Hey Don!

Came to check your blog as The Times here in London has did a blerb on you the other day, they said you might be the oldest blogger in the World!

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/newspaper/0,,173-2477985,00.html

 
At 3:08 AM, Blogger Patrick said...

I know someone who can only hear with his glasses on. I know someone else who can only hear what you're saying if he can see your eyes - your mouth can be completely obscured. Sometimes it's a function of the hearing organs not functioning, sometimes it's a matter of the mind not tuning in properly. I classify the first example as non-deaf, because he always wears his glasses, and I classify the latter as mostly-deaf, because what he does is the equivalent of reading lips.

I submit that Edison would have fallen in to the latter category, but I'm confounded somewhat by a doctor's willingness to cure him. Firstly because it implies some form of actual hearing loss, and secondly because I wasn't aware that hearing loss was something that was generally considered curable until just recently. Is there more information to be had on the proposed cure?

It may be of interest to you that some members of the Deaf Community are currently protesting the availability of cochlear implants. The only readily available link I can find is about the protests in France, but it'll give you the gist: http://www.zak.co.il/deaf-info/old/ci-france.html

 
At 5:06 AM, Anonymous Garry Conn said...

...it might be possible to repair his hearing. However Edison declined the offer, saying that this way he could hear when he wanted to hear (and sometimes he heard things to his advantage that others obviously did not intend for him to hear)
That is very interesting to learn... Maybe also there could have been possible risk factors too, maybe he weighed out the options and decided that it was too risky?

By the way, I published an article about you and added this site to my blogroll.

 
At 3:47 PM, Blogger Brian said...

You don't need to voice sage comments EVERY day; who is capable of that?

 
At 8:10 PM, Blogger THE Michael said...

You've just made me aware of my own selfish utilization of my increasing deafness.......like ignoring my wife when I really feel I'm to busy to yell at her "WHAT?"

 
At 9:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think deaf or not we only listen and hear things that we want to hear. There has been many many times that I just heard what I wanted and I am sure people around me are like that too.

What is important is how to make poeple hear things that should be heard and worth listening.

Maybe it is a good thing to be selective in hearing. I think Thomas Edison is a proof of that.

All the best Don. You Rock!

 
At 9:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

maybe Edison was deaf,
maybe he chose to be deaf
with all the ignorance that
are being said ... and believed..
I too prefer to stay with deaf ears.
Edison, a man of science and technologies, he
must of heard his share of ignorant gratuities

 
At 12:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Edison was a thief.

 
At 1:55 AM, Blogger Footpad said...

Hey Don!

My take is that Edison may not have heard the same things as others, but he certainly found ways to listen..and respond...to the people and the world around him.

Sometimes, the different drummer plays an instrument far different than the one we usually imagine.

Interesting thoughts. Thank you for sharing them!

-- f

 
At 4:25 AM, Anonymous Hosting Mambo said...

Hi Donald,
First up all your blog's design is very attractive; I liked it. The topic you have posted here is an interesting one. I did not stopped myself reading it from top to bottom.
If you see, many deaf people can hear and understand you and your feelings in various ways, which are more powerful than the two ears. Then it doesn't matter whether you can hear or not with your ears. I think that's what Edison might want to say. IMO there is nothing about hearing through ears.

 
At 7:50 PM, Blogger Keith said...

The answer was that Edison never turned his deaf aid on because it run the batteries down.

 
At 10:32 PM, Anonymous Ook said...

I couldn't quite make this out. My eyes must be tired.

 
At 6:42 PM, Anonymous sereneambition said...

Hi Don, missed reading your blog for last few posts...good to catch up. Good Stuff. I make another distinction...between hearing and listening. We can all hear the same stuff but not listen the same communication. Listening is a function of our interpretation(s) of the world and pretty much determines what we hear regardless of what was said. "My father in his house of logs said the world was going to the dogs".

 
At 3:32 PM, Blogger ballookey said...

Well, I put my iPod earbuds in at work a lot when I'm busy. I'm not actually listening to music, but rather, people assume that I can't hear them so they don't bother me. It works great allowing me to get a lot done. It helps filter away the people who didn't really need me.

I can easily imagine that Edison might not have had to exaggerate his deafness if only he'd invented the iPod first - either he'd be totally deaf from listening to his music too loud, or like me, he'd just pretend to be listening.

 
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